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'Steep' drop in public confidence in MPs, says watchdog

(14 Posts)
ttosca Thu 15-Sep-11 15:18:07

Public confidence in MPs fell steeply between 2008 and 2010, research by the standards watchdog has suggested.

The percentage of people in England who think MPs are dedicated to working well for the public dropped from 46% to 26%.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life said its survey indicated concerns "with self-serving behaviour" by MPs overshadowed other issues.

The watchdog said it would be "strange" if the expenses scandal had not contributed to public unhappiness.

Four former MPs have gone to prison for expenses fraud while a fifth has been charged but is yet to stand trial.

The watchdog's survey of 1,900 people was carried out in early 2011, 19 months after the MPs' expenses scandal broke.

Although it shows a "long-term decline in public confidence in those holding public office" since 2004, the report says that on many issues, the decline since 2008 has been even "steeper".

It suggests there has been no "bounce" in confidence since the new government came to power - or if there was one it was short lived and died out before the survey was conducted.

"Public satisfaction with the conduct of MPs has declined on every measure except taking bribes since the last survey was conducted," the report said.

Continued...

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14924465?postId=110277682

MrPants Thu 15-Sep-11 16:22:50

How can there be any other result considering our elected MP's have shown such utter contempt for us so consistently and for so long? It's not just the expenses scandals, flipping their second homes, charging your husbands porn to the country, it's not even making up evidence to justify going to war, cash for honours or even rolls of wallpaper at £200 a pop. It's not about getting caught for speeding and then getting your wife to take the punishment (allegedly) or getting caught in bed with someone else’s wife. Nor is it about the photos of hookers and cocaine, releasing Britain’s worst serial killer as part of a grubby oil deal or bankrupting the country and indebting our children. It's the lies they tell whilst they are doing this.

The last government went to a high court to get a judgement which said that manifesto pledges don't have to be honoured once in power, whilst this current government (of both colours) ditched large parts of their manifesto pledges so they could cosy up together. If their manifestos are so easy to ignore and their principles so easily warped what chance do we, the people, really have?

Britain has been in a period of decline for donkeys years - probably, in all truth, since before the last war - sometimes that decline has been managed, sometimes it has been chaotic. I believe that we (and I include Western Europe and the US in this) are on the cusp of going into another downward spiral of chaotic decline. That the best we can hope for is managed decline is bad enough, that I don't have faith in our current crop of politicians to achieve even that, is an utter disgrace.

The problem is that when one looks at all 650 MP’s, on both sides of the house, there doesn’t seem to be one capable of articulating a strategy, with the vision or with the capability to drag this country out of its mire and make it a ‘Great’ Britain again. This country is the inheritor of a unique history, one that we can (mostly) be proud of, we deserve better of those that claim that they serve us.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Sep-11 17:17:26

I think a lot of it is a response to hype. Some of us had MPs that fiddled expenses but, if we had any gumption, we voted them out rather than whine about MPs in general. Others go down the route of 'my MP is a great guy ... it's all the others that are bastards'.

Another side of the problem is that all the parties are so terrified of any suggestion of disagreement in the ranks and so concerned about performance in marginal seats that the message is too carefully controlled. What emerges is rather plastic and bland trying to be 'all things to all people'. When honesty is often not about being popular with everyone.

I'm more relaxed than MrPants about manifesto pledges. In a coalition situation, both parties (by definition) can't adhere to their promises 100% but have to compromise and find some acceptable middle ground. Different entirely if one party gets a resounding majority... then we expect to get what was written on the tin. I don't think the British electorate - formerly quite pro-PR - has quite grasped the implications.

ttosca Thu 15-Sep-11 18:53:28

Cogito-

I think a lot of it is a response to hype. Some of us had MPs that fiddled expenses but, if we had any gumption, we voted them out rather than whine about MPs in general. Others go down the route of 'my MP is a great guy ... it's all the others that are bastards'.

Except that it's not just one or two MPs which have committed fraud or other crimes, but many of them.

Secondly, thanks to our fantastic FPTP system, many MPs are in safe seats, and there is little or no chance of them getting kicked out while tribal politics exists.

I'm more relaxed than MrPants about manifesto pledges. In a coalition situation, both parties (by definition) can't adhere to their promises 100% but have to compromise and find some acceptable middle ground. Different entirely if one party gets a resounding majority... then we expect to get what was written on the tin. I don't think the British electorate - formerly quite pro-PR - has quite grasped the implications.

Some of the various policies being proposed or being passed are not 'compromises' between two opposing parties, but 180 degree turnarounds. The Lib Dems gave a promise - a cast iron guarantee - that they would not raise tuition fees. This was one of their main manifesto points. They have since allowed fees to triple to £9000. The Tories pledged that no top-down revolution in the NHS, yet that's exactly what they're proposing today: A revolution in the way the NHS is run and funded. They were not elected on a platform of healthcare privitisation, yet that's exactly what they're trying to do.

It sounds to me like you're just making up excuses. 'Compromise' is one thing. Outright lies and 180 U-turns are quite another.

If political parties are not held to account for their manifesto pledges, we might as well abandon democracy altogether, for it becomes meaningless.

ttosca Thu 15-Sep-11 18:55:42

This little gem was posted by someone on Facebook:

"Can you imagine working for a company that has just 635 employees, but has the following employee statistics? 29 have been accused of spouse abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques, 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses, 3 have done time for assault, 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits, 84 have been arrested for drink driving in the last year - and - collectively, this year alone, they have cost the British tax payer £92,993,748 in expenses! Which organisation is this?"

"It's the 635 members of the House of Commons. The same group that cranks out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line. And just to top all that they probably have the best 'corporate' pension scheme in the country! If you agree that this is an appalling state of affairs, please pass it on to everyone you know."

Unfortunately, they didn't leave any source for their information, so I can't verify the numbers. I wouldn't be surprised if it were true, however.

MrPants Thu 15-Sep-11 19:08:28

If political parties are not held to account for their manifesto pledges, we might as well abandon democracy altogether, for it becomes meaningless. ttosca.

Well done - I couldn't have put it more succinctly.

One of the other causes of apathy is, of couurse, the convergence between the parties. All of them favour big government and stand on a centre-left platform. There is so little difference between them that it hardly matters who you vote for.

meditrina Thu 15-Sep-11 19:32:22

I've just been looking at the linked article - it notes the decline was underway by 2004 (no information on earlier), but it sharpened in 2008-10.

Something that interests me is that the survey does not say when in 2010 it cut off - before or after the election? Did the public omit to use the chance to boot out the sleazy and demand candidates with integrity?

Even if I had an MP whose views I vehemently disagree with, I can respect someone with integrity.

And the other way round - even if the MP was of the party with the "least bad" platform (for that is the kindest way to describe the shoddy choice we got last time), I could not respect someone who demonstrated low integrity.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 15-Sep-11 22:50:46

"If political parties are not held to account for their manifesto pledges, we might as well abandon democracy altogether..."

You don't half talk some rubbish. If they don't meet their manifesto pledges to the satisfaction of the electorate, the democratic solution is that they are voted out. Times change... and if we insist our governments carry out policies even when the circumstances have altered, that would be ridiculous.

ttosca Fri 16-Sep-11 12:41:23

Cogito

You don't half talk some rubbish. If they don't meet their manifesto pledges to the satisfaction of the electorate, the democratic solution is that they are voted out. Times change... and if we insist our governments carry out policies even when the circumstances have altered, that would be ridiculous.

You're making excuses for them to ignore the electorate.

I already gave you two examples where each party did a complete u-turn on a policy in their manifest. In both cases, there was no 'new information' or change in circumstances which would prompt such a move. They did a u-turn because it was politically expedient.

That wouldn't be the first time, either. Remember New Labour's 'ethical foreign policy'?

Regarding your suggestion: is that really all you expect from democracy? You think it's OK if parties pretend to be democratic and sell themselves on a certain platform, only to ignore it when they are elected - so long as we have the option to vote them out after four years?

You might be satisfied with that kind of 'democracy', but many people aren't. I expect my politicians to do as they say they will.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 16-Sep-11 12:47:15

There was a major change in circumstances i.e. that neither party won the general election and that neither party therefore had carte blanche to carry out their promises. There was also the small matter of that little note saying 'sorry, there's no money left' or whatever. Your suggestion would have them slavishly adhering to a programme of strategies that would be five years out of date by the end of the parliament. I think all that would happen is that election promises became more and more vague.... ooh.... rather like the Labour Party's are at the moment.

MrPants Fri 16-Sep-11 13:19:16

Cogito, all of the parties have had a manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on Europe at some point - If anything, the only thing that's changed is that it's now more imperative that we sort out our relationship with Europe, yet we still await a referendum. The result of the last election doesn't affect this one jot and neither does the state of the nation’s finances.

All parties are able to make promises that they don't intend to keep. Until this changes there’s not a lot of point listening to them.

ttosca Fri 16-Sep-11 13:52:39

Cogito-

^There was a major change in circumstances i.e. that neither party won the general election and that neither party therefore had carte blanche to carry out their promises.

And that's my point: There is no pressure to privatise coming from the vast majority of Lib Dems to privatise the NHS. That is entirely a Tory agenda. The u-turn is not the result of a compromise, but of lies and political expediency.

You are making excuses for them.

Here are some more examples (New Labour, no less, so you should more acceptable to your partisan point of view):

www.the-vibe.co.uk/2010/11/05/all-parties-go-back-on-their-manifestos-and-election-promises/

There was also the small matter of that little note saying 'sorry, there's no money left' or whatever.

None of the parties were in the slightest down what the economic situation was before they entered office. None whatsoever. The budgets were published and the financial crisis was already well under way.

Your suggestion would have them slavishly adhering to a programme of strategies that would be five years out of date by the end of the parliament. I think all that would happen is that election promises became more and more vague.... ooh.... rather like the Labour Party's are at the moment.

If there is a major u-turn of a policy based on manifesto pledges, then there should be a referendum on the issue or a re-election. There is a difference between 'adapting to circumstances' and outright lying about pledges and then immediately rescinding on your promises.

ttosca Fri 16-Sep-11 13:55:58

slightest down

slightest doubt.

Sorry.

Solopower Sun 18-Sep-11 17:15:26

Let's hope there is steep drop in confidence in MPs! This should be followed by regulation to make sure it doesn't happen again, plus guidelines (if there aren't any already - surely there must be!) about the sort of behaviour we expect from them.

Honestly, it feels like they are naughty children, getting their knuckles rapped!

The excuse that has me curling my toes in excruciation is the one where they say 'MPs don't get paid much, and it was a way of them supplementing their income', or worse, far worse: 'Everyone was doing it'.

However, I'm talking about MPs, not local councillors, who are a dedicated, hard-working lot, ime.

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